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'Dare to Repair' saves tools, lamps and windows from landfills

A broken antique swing-arm floor lamp collected years of tarnish in Adrienne Punturiero's Village of Hamburg basement.

Until Sunday afternoon when Punturiero dared to repair it.

She brought the brass and marble floor lamp to the University Heights Tool Library's first-ever Dare to Repair Cafe. That's where expert volunteer "fixers" showed homeowners how to rewire their old lamps, reglaze old windows, stitch torn clothing and fix small appliances.

"It's too nice of a lamp," Punturiero said.  "I forgot we had it. My husband was ready to put it out at the curb."

Volunteer Chip Blenk rewires a ceiling fan motor Sunday at the Dare to Repair Cafe. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Enter Chip Blenk.

The retired engineer from Lancaster took the lamp apart and showed the Punturieros how to fix it.

Blenk, who is part of Erie County's Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), responded to the Tool Library's call for fix-it men.

"My kids said 'It's right up your alley,'" Blenk said. "It's fun fixing other people's things."

Blenk, who manned the lamps and small appliances station inside a West Northrup Place storefront, was one of several volunteers covering six different categories at Sunday's Dare to Repair Cafe.

Others were for tools and equipment, sewing and clothing, windows, bicycles, and woodworking and furniture.

"It's all about the ability to pass on the knowledge," said Joseph Kurtz, a founder of the University Heights Community Laboratory and a volunteer at the Tool Library.

Kurtz said the repair cafe may be new to Buffalo, but it's not a new concept. It was born in the Berkeley, Calif. area as an innovative way of promoting recycling and reuse.

Instead of junking older appliances or fixtures, they can be given new life and their owners can take away some knowledge they didn't have before their visit.

"I believe in the mission," said Mike Macaluso, a construction contractor and Dare to Repair volunteer.

"We try to empower people with little pieces of advice, that 'You can do this,'" Macaluso said. "It's a good opportunity to talk to people and say they shouldn't be afraid of things."

Kurtz said organizers aim to making it a once-per-month event somewhere in Buffalo.

Another Dare to Repair event is scheduled at Knowledgefire, 839 West Ave., on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"This is such a great idea," said Punturiero, who also chairs Hamburg's environmental conservation commission.

At about half-way through Sunday's four-hour long fix-it event, nearly a dozen and a half visitors dropped by with antique windows, power washers circular saws and lamps.

One unique item — with a unique solution — came across Macaluso's tools and equipment station.

It was a 1970s-era fluorescent lamp with a lens like you might find in a jeweler's shop or an optometrist's office.

"The fluorescent ballast was shot," Macaluso said.

It didn't get fixed Sunday, but the woman who brought it in left with a prescription to go to an area hardware store for LED lighting that will be used to re-purpose the device at next month's Dare to Repair event.

"We'll legitimately make it work," Macaluso said. "And, she'll never have to change the light again."


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